NOTE: September 21st, 2008 -- This website is out of date, and I am about to revise it. I have been using computer control to run my layouts, and its changed my life. See for more information. For those of you who know me, no, I did not join a cult or something.


So what is Naked Märklin? Its a model railroad that has been laid out bare on the floor, without all the fancy scenery and backdrops. The guts are exposed, the wires are visible, and there is no attempt to trick the mind's eye into thinking you're looking at a real railroad.

But like anything, your mind can fool itself sometimes...

Night on the layout.
That shot was actually an accident, one of the flash units didn't fire when it was supposed to. Can you see the Steinway Grand Piano in this shot?

I hope you like my pages about my trainset. It may be "just a toy" but its given my friends and I countless hours of enjoyment, and it beats videogames hands-down. I know, I've been playing video games almost as long as I've played with these trains, and the trains are mos def better. ;)

And it intrigues the hell out of Cats.


P.S. I promise no Cats were harmed in the setup and running of these trainsets, despite what you might read later on.

What's Here

Use the navigation links at the top and bottom of the pages to look around. This is a short guide to what's here:

My BR38

Last Updated Fall 2006

I'm updating this site again, because I finally got some more time to play with the trains!. I'm changing the art a bit, posting some new pictures and movies, and some more explanatory text and stock shots to help explain my life with this trainset to my friends, who keep asking. Here's a quick list of what I've done recently:

My BR74

Märklin and I

I won't go into an exhaustive list of what's on this site, but its all made by Gebr. Märklin & Cie. GmbH (otherwise known as Märklin, manufacturers of the world's best trainset and other fine toys for over a century). The pieces here range in age from 1959 until now, and these photos cannot begin to do justice to the detail and beauty of them. I've been collecting this trainset since I was nine years old (1969), thanks to my long-lost friend Lou Sanchez. He convinced me that I wanted Märklin rather than Lionel or American HO, because the quality was better, the detailing was better, and it was just better. Over the years I've seen other layouts, talked with owners of Lionel and other manufacturers, and they've all agreed -- these guys are the Jewelers of Model Railroading.

2960 Starter Set from 1969
My First Train Set

Not much fun, eh? You get an oval, which is really just a circle with 2 straights. You get the cheapest Engine they've got, and two cheap freight cars.

NOT to a 9 Year Old!

Mom and Dad were quite pleased at how quiet I was during the Christmas holidays in 1969. This set was a joy, and I loved it. Setting it up and taking it down became a thing that made me look forward to the weekend. I had to work and save to get new track and cars for it, and I also learned about the fundamentals of current and conductivity. And, the Cat was scared!

As a young kid, I learned basic electronics and basic programming with this stuff. Maintaining the engines and track taught me how to do fine hand work, and the value of doing it right. I also learned how to "program" the layout with signals, switch and contact track, to allow two trains run around the layout without smashing into each other. Last but not least, I got exposed to many different languages because the manuals for this stuff are always printed in 5 or more languages.

When I came close to throwing it away (as a teenager, stupid me!), my Mother convinced me not to, since she knew better than I. She loved this trainset, and many of the older pieces (including the crane) were bought by her after I had decided that girls were more interesting. ;) So, this website is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Annette Havens.

My 2005 Christmas Tree Layout
During the 80s and 90s, the set stayed in the closet, except for Christmas, when it would delight my friends by running around the christmas tree. A long train with lights running around the tree just makes people happy. In fact, there is a very kewl hypnotic effect that usually occurs around midnight, as the wine kicks in and people sit back after hanging all the ornaments and just watch a Lighted Märkin Passenger train running around the tree they worked so hard on.

In 1999 I got addicted to eBay, where I spent far too much money buying a lot of the track & rolling stock you see here. I built a large layout in my living room and had my friend Frank Schifano shoot it on 35mm film (see Photography, on the Misc page). The pictures from that shoot inspired me to start this website.

The Future

I still pull out the trains every Christmas, and I just got a pair of sets with Delta decoders and a 6604 control, which lead to the inevitable Computer hookup, where I can run the trains from my laptop. I've also developed some friends in Europe, and whenever I go over there, or they come here, I try to score some more Märklin, usually hard to find items and spare parts. Thanks to Harold Van Aalderen and others I've not only finally lit up a long TEE Express train but I've also gotten my old Borsig Steam Engine to make smoke.

Probably by the time I am 70, I'll have one of those large pikes in the basement and finally decide to cover up the Märklin with scenery.

Manu On The Layout
The Cat

Most of my stuff is HO Gauge, which means that its smaller than Lionel, but still needs serious floor space to run. As far as the Cat is concerned, this size has good play value, but can be scary. The Engines are smaller than the cat, but bigger than your average mouse. They can be as fast as the cat, they make scary growling sounds, and they smell very strange.

Generally, cats tend to stalk this gauge. The picture on the left is from the, click on it and check out their Cats On The Layout page.

They creep up, wait, watch, creep up again, wait, watch, and then choose the correct instant to pounce, causing the engine and any cars to smash all over the place. They can also break track as they jump on top of the engine.

Then run away really fast as you jump up and go "Damn you, you Cat!"

Märklin Quality

One of the main reasons why people love Märklin is the fine detailing and high quality of what they make. First, a lot of what they make is still metal, and they used to use only metal for their products (the older trains are called "Tin Plate" trains). They cast their metal engine products using a Zinc composite that is beautiful, highly detailed and heavy enough to hurt the Cat.

But what they are also known for is the quality of their detailing. Recently I took some time to document this with some Macro Photography. Here is an example comparison of a cheap Märklin caboose and a cheap Modelpower caboose:

Modelpower 3455 vs. Märklin 4411, note the ruler for scale
The Modelpower caboose is made of only a few parts. Almost everything on it is plastic, including the wheels, which will wear out-of-round eventually on rough track. Also (and I'm not sure of this) I don't think its based on any car that actually existed, but is instead just a generic design. And the end rails look like they're made from paper clips.

The Märklin caboose is made of many parts, and has yellow plastic window frames, clear plastic glass in the windows, metal roofs for the main car and cupola, and a detailed black frame under the car. Its based on an actual car, the "Type Pwi No. 0116911 Stgt.". The quality of the plastic castings are different too, look at the ends of the two cabooses:

Carriage End Shots
Observe the detailing on the end of the Märklin car as compared to the Modelpower. The end rails on the Märklin car have raised detailing and fine lines vs. a simple metal bar on the Modelpower. The brake wheel and side lights on the Modelpower seem embedded into the body. The walls on the Märklin car are finely ribbed to simulate wood.

Print Detail Shot, ~1 inch wide on left, ~3/8th inch wide on right.
Note that these are not in scale with each other, I have zoomed in on the Märklin car a bit tighter than the Modelpower. The Modelpower shot is about 1 inch wide but the Märklin shot is only 3/8ths of an inch wide. (Notice the ruler laid along the tracks in the first shot above.)

Take a look at the print on both cars. The Märklin car has much finer printing, and the crispness at that size is incredible. Using a magnifying glass on a Märklin car usually makes people go "Wow, look at that!". The Modelpower print is just boring by comparison.

Both of these cars are considered "Entry Level" models designed for kids. Yes, the Märklin car is a bit more expensive, but I think you can see what you're paying for.


Z Gauge Detail

Z Gauge Tank Car, note fine print under bar on right side
Märklin also makes the world's smallest mass-produced train sets, known as Z Gauge. This gauge is 1:220, which means that 1 real life inch is 220 inches (or, 18 feet 4 inches ) in the scale.

Oh, if you are a Cat, this gauge represents the ultimate in play value -- you are bigger than the trains, they move fast but not fast enough, and they are easily chomped on and can be batted around by your paws!

Here is another example of printing detail. This is my model of the Baker's Chocolate tank car. This car has sat on top of one of my computers for over 6 years, and its been knocked off from time to time. It even ended up in the office trash once, although we found it (grrr!). After washing it, I decided to try my hand at revealing some of the print on it.

The car is not even 2 inches long. Look at the printing under the black rail that runs along the middle of the car. Notice the block of print on the right end, I've added an arrow pointing up to it.

Can you read that?
Here is a closeup of the print on the right side under that bar:


GATC 2954

Now, there may be American manufacturers who make stuff this detailed, but I haven't found them yet. Neither I nor my friends have ever been able to read that, even when using a Magnifying glass. Its only when I used Super Macro mode on an Olympus Digital Camera that I finally was able to see it.

Real Running Jewelry

Set 88853
I'd also like to point out that Märklin truly is the Jeweler of Model Railroading. Look at their Z Gauge Engine Set 88853. Those engines really run, and are made out of Gold, Silver and Brass. And diamonds and rubies. Here is the Description from the current catalog:

Set consists of 3 models of the class 03 express locomotive with tender. One each model in a version with the locomotive and tender body made of solid 18 carat gold, sterling silver, and solid bronze. 3 cut diamonds shine as triple headlights on each locomotive. 3 rubies serve to represent the marker lights on each tender. The locomotives are fully functional and are equipped with a 5-pole motor. All of the driving axles are powered. All of the wheels are gold plated. The wheels on the locomotives feature black spokes. The side rods, drive rods, and crosshead guides are gold plated and inlaid with black. All 3 locomotives in this set are provided with consecutive numbering and thereby make each set unique and unmistakable. These exclusive decorative pieces are protected in a high quality case. White gloves are included to protect the locomotives. A numbered certificate confirms the authenticity of this unique edition. The length over the buffers for each locomotive is 112 mm / 4-7/16. This steam locomotive edition is being produced in a one-time series and only on order in 2004. The extremely expensive process for the manufacture of this edition is reflected in the strictly limited run.

Maybe we should keep the Cat away from that, eh?